Canadian regulators lay out EIS roadmap for 1,100-MW hydro project

The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office on Sept. 7 released the guidelines for a planned environmental impact statement on the 1,100-MW Site C Clean Energy Project, which is a hydro project planned by the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro).

The authority proposes to construct and operate the Site C Clean Energy Project, which involves the construction and operation of a dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River, in northeast British Columbia, downstream of the existing Williston and Dinosaur reservoirs, and the authority’s existing generating facilities at G.M. Shrum and Peace Canyon. The project would have an installed generating capacity of up to 1,100 MW and require two new 500-kV transmission lines adjacent to two existing 138-kV transmission lines along about 77 kilometers of existing and widened right-of-way.

The project is reviewable under the Environmental Assessment Act and the Reviewable Projects Regulation. Federal agencies have concluded under the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) that the project will require approvals under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and authorizations under the federal Fisheries Act, triggering an environmental assessment. The new CEAA that came into force on July 6 provides that an environmental assessment by a review panel commenced under the process established under the former CEAA is continued under the process established under CEAA.

The Minister of Environment of Canada and the Minister of Environment of British Columbia have agreed to a cooperative environmental assessment of the project, including the establishment of a joint review panel. The panel, after holding public hearings and evaluating the information included in the EIS and public hearings, will provide provincial and federal officials with the Joint Review Panel Report which will summarize the panel’s rationale, conclusions and recommendations relating to the environmental assessment of the project.

The provincial Minister of Environment and Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will determine whether an Environmental Assessment Certificate should be issued. The Minister of the Environment of Canada will make an environmental assessment decision and the conditions will be included in an Environmental Assessment Decision Statement that will be issued to BC Hydro.

BC Hydro said this C$7.9bn project would meet needs for 100 years

“B.C.’s electricity needs are forecast to increase by approximately 50 per cent in the next 20 years,” said a Site C project fact sheet on the BC Hydro website. “As extensive as BC Hydro’s electricity supply is, it will not be enough to meet future electricity needs if demand continues to grow as projected. The planning, development and construction of a large hydro project like Site C requires a long lead time – 10 years or more. This means that BC Hydro must plan now to ensure that British Columbians have the electricity they need in the future.”

Site C would have an upfront capital cost of C$7.9bn, low operating costs and a long life of more than 100 years, the fact sheet added. It would produce electricity in a cost range between C$87 and C$95 per megawatt hour.

Site C would also help facilitate the development of intermittent renewables — such as wind and run-of-river hydro — as a dependable and flexible resource, the fact sheet said. “With its reliable capacity, Site C would be able to quickly increase or decrease generation to match the availability of intermittent resources,” it added. “For example, Site C generation could be increased when intermittent resources are not available (e.g., when the wind is not blowing). When intermittent resources are available, the generation from Site C could be decreased and the water could be stored for later use.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.